Getting older has its perks, like learning life’s lessons, knowing what you want (and how to get it), and feeling comfortable in your own skin. That is, unless you suffer from heartburn.
Studies have shown the irritating truth that this esophageal irritation gets more intense as you age.
“First, the sphincter on top of your stomach, which opens to allow things you swallow to go into your stomach, tends to relax a bit more with time,” says Self.
That’s a medical way to say that even your internal muscles can’t fight Father Time. When that flap doesn’t open or close as quickly, stomach acid can creep back up and cause your esophagus to burn.
Another cause for more heartburn as you age is that your stomach doesn’t digest your food as quickly. And when your food sticks around longer, there are more chances for problems. Couple that with a slight weight gain that a lot of folks experience later in life, and your stomach acid has the perfect storm for irritating your esophagus.
Most folks experience heartburn from all the usual culprits: Fatty foods, sugar, peppermint, booze (basically anything fun). If that’s the case for you, limiting your intake along with using an over-the-counter heartburn med should probably take care of the problem.
However, if you have more severe problem that happens more frequently or doesn’t have a food trigger, you should definitely let your doctor know. With frequent heartburn comes a higher risk for esophageal cancer because of the acid wearing away at your throat. A stronger medication or more stringent course of action might be necessary, but your doctor can help you figure out what you should do.
“Heartburn is one of many possible symptoms of GERD. GERD means reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus,” says our very own Dr. Anezi Bakken.
She walked us through the symptoms and risks associated with heart burn the last time we sat down with her. She also told us how there comes a point when your heartburn could be something more serious. GERD typically shows more severe symptoms, such as nausea, sore throat, difficulty swallowing and even a cough. “Just” heartburn can turn into a more severe condition.
What else can you do?
Stop smoking, lose weight and drink lots of water – pretty much the standard prescription for getting any condition under control.
Talk to your doctor regarding any stomach discomfort to keep things in check and to avoid a more serious condition from developing.